You'd think that in today's online world, where there are so many ways to generate and buy traffic, and where literally everything is being tracked, it wouldn't be that hard to buy quality traffic. You'd think that – and you'd be dead wrong.
As it turns out, buying quality traffic is as challenging as ever. According to HubSpot, almost two thirds of companies are struggling with generating relevant traffic and leads. For more than half (55 percent), it is one of their top marketing priorities.
So what makes buying quality traffic so hard? And how can you avoid pitfalls when shopping for quality traffic, making sure you're achieving your marketing and business goals? Read below to find out.
Generating traffic - not as easy as you’d think [Image Credit: HubSpot]
It's a Bot's World
Your biggest enemies in the modern war for quality traffic are bots. What are bots, and how big of a nuisance are they? They are tiny pieces of software, designed to generate ad clicks. They're generally considered malware. Fraudsters use different techniques to infect countless computers with malware, which then uses those computers (oblivious to their owners, naturally) to click on ads. It's a huge industry, generating a lot of money for the fraudsters. In 2015, a third of all ad spending was wasted on bots. Pair that with your average acquisition costs, and it quickly adds up to a mountain of lost funds.
So the first step to making sure you're actually buying quality traffic is to make sure you're not just feeding bots.
“Well if it’s software we’re talking about, then it has to behave within a certain pattern, so it must be easy to spot it!” you cry in relief. But my dear Watson, it’s far more complicated than that. Bots are getting smarter. Sure, some are simple enough. They spoof a user agent and click a link, easy enough to track. Other bots will try to mimic human behavior. They’ll wait an indeterminate length of time before clicking, scroll through the page a bit, you know… human stuff. Then, there are the really advanced ones, in which first a human performs a series of actions, and the bot later plays them back, with different IPs and user agents.
One thing to keep in mind is that you will never (and we’re pretty sure we really mean *never*) get completely rid of bot traffic. It’s mixed with real human traffic to the point where it’s impossible to completely, utterly, definitely, weed it out. But, what you can do is minimize it to an acceptable degree.
In order to do that, you’ll need qualitative and quantitative analytics tools. Such as...
Heatmaps are an important tool [Image Credit: Flickr]
Grab yourself a heatmap that will provide you with a number of solutions. These babies will show you where the people coming onto your site click. hang around, what they do. Humans are messy creatures, so you can expect your heatmap to be quite diverse. Bots, on the other hand, are robotically precise. So, if your traffic is fake, your heatmap will show interactions with only a few elements, and those interactions will be scarily precise. Remember, bots don’t have a mouse or a cursor.
The next way is available in virtually every quantitative analytics tool out there, your bounce rate. Bots will always look to do the absolute minimum in order for the site to register a click or a visit. They won’t click on the site’s elements. They won’t browse through the site. They do the old In-and-out. So if your bounce rate is suspiciously high (above 70 percent), you’re probably dealing with bots.
Is Your Competition Stalking You?
Besides bots, competing businesses often employ shady tactics to make sure they stay on top of you, and you stay below them. One of the shady tactics is clicking on your ads. They do it for a number of reasons, the main one being to drive up your costs and have you meet your daily budget cap early in the day. This can also mess with your bounce rate, destroy your Quality Score, and have you converting less and less.
Search Engine Land’s, Brad Geddes, believes the best way to eliminate such poor traffic is to exclude your competitors’ IP addresses from your campaigns. Every online advertising service allows its users to block specific IP addresses, so make sure you research who your competition is, how they access the internet and which IP addresses they use, and remove them. But be careful – some hosts offer shared IP addresses.
“Before you go tracking all of your competitors and start blocking their IPs, please make sure you are blocking the correct IPs, or that the IP addresses are not shared. Some host providers may have thousands of users on the same IP address,” Geddes says.
Another way you can make sure your competition stays away from your campaign is to use Facebook or LinkedIn. These platforms allow ads to be served to specific audiences, which means that finding an ad and clicking on it becomes an almost impossible task for your competition. Be wary, however, as Facebook is notorious for fake accounts, click farms and fake traffic. Keep a close eye on those visits, if you see too many coming from Bangladesh, something’s fishy.
Eliminate unnecessary Traffic
At the end of the day, traffic can be real, doesn’t have to be from your competitors, and can still be considered of poor quality. No, we’re not talking about targeting wrong audiences, or unnecessary countries or even continents, that’s a given. Advanced techniques include tracking content network sites that send you traffic, and then excluding unwanted sites. Another thing to consider is negative keywords – you definitely don’t want to be associated with all the wrong search engine results. SelfAdvertiser, for example, is an ad network with a CPA model, with advanced, detailed analytics, offering network site tracking and excluding, as well as negative keywords, so make sure you check it out here.
Roleplaying Indiana Jones
Tread carefully, Indiana [Image Credit: Flickr]
In a world where going for only organic traffic has become almost laughable, buying quality traffic has become necessary, but also quite tricky. Like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, you need to tread carefully across a field of similar-looking stones. Some will take you where you want to be, while others might kill you. Well, maybe not literally kill you, but will definitely set your campaign back by quite a way.
Those crooked stones are your bots, your fake accounts, your competition trying to click you out of business, and your poor traffic coming from unwanted sites and regions of the world. Avoid those pitfalls and you’ll reap the benefits of quality, relevant traffic flowing in.